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Article 3. Whether God exists?

Objection 1. It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word "God" means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evildiscoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist. Objection 2. Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one

principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God's existence. On the contrary, It is said in the person of God: "I am Who am." (Exodus 3:14) I answer that, The existence of God can be proved in five ways. The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is inpotentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actuallyhot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentialityin the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the

first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God. The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causesfollowing in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God. The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficientcauses. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God. The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a

thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God. The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we callGod. Reply to Objection 1. As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): "Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil." This is part of the infinitegoodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good. Reply to Objection 2. Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done bynature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle, as was shown in the body of the Article.

From the Proslogium

Therefore, Lord, who grant understanding to faith, grant me that, in so far as you know it beneficial, I understand that you are as we believe and you are that which we believe. Now we believe that you are something than which nothing greater can be imagined. Then is there no such nature, since the fool has said in his heart: God is not? But certainly this same fool, when he hears this very thing that I am saying - something than which nothing greater can be imagined - understands what he hears; and what he understands is in his understanding, even if he does not understand that it is. For it is one thing for a thing to be in the understanding and another to understand that a thing is. For when a painter imagines beforehand what he is going to make, he has in his undertanding what he has not yet made but he does not yet understand that it is. But when he has already painted it, he both has in his understanding what he has already painted and understands that it is. Therefore even the fool is bound to agree that there is at least in the understanding something than which nothing greater can be imagined, because when he hears this he understands it, and whatever is understood is in the understanding. And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater. Therefore if that than which a greater cannot be imagined is in the understanding alone, that very thing than which a greater cannot be imagined is something than which a greater can be imagined. But certainly this cannot be. There exists, therefore, beyond doubt something than which a greater cannot be imagined, both in the understanding and in reality.

Bertrand Russell on Critical Thinking


William Hare Mount St. Vincent University William.hare@msvu.ca

ABSTRACT: The ideal of critical thinking is a central one in Russell's philosophy, though this is not yet generally recognized in the literature on critical thinking. For Russell, the ideal is embedded in the fabric of philosophy, science, liberalism and rationality, and this paper reconstructs Russell's account, which is scattered throughout numerous papers and books. It appears that he has developed a rich conception, involving a complex set of skills, dispositions and attitudes, which together delineate a virtue which has both intellectual and moral aspects. It is a view which is rooted in Russell's epistemological conviction that knowledge is difficult but not impossible to attain, and in his ethical conviction that freedom and independence in inquiry are vital. Russell's account anticipates many of the insights to be found in the recent critical thinking literature, and his views on critical thinking are of enormous importance in understanding the nature of educational aims. Moreover, it is argued that Russell manages to avoid many of the objections which have been raised against recent accounts. With respect to impartiality, thinking for oneself, the importance of feelings and relational skills, the connection with action, and the problem of generalizability, Russell shows a deep understanding of problems and issues which have been at the forefront of recent debate.

The ideal of critical thinking is a central one in Russell's philosophy, though this is not yet generally recognized. Russell's name seldom appears in the immense literature on critical thinking which has emerged in philosophy of education over the past twenty years. Few commentators have noticed the importance of Russell's work in connection with any theory of education which includes a critical component. Chomsky, for example, reminds us of Russell's humanistic conception of education, which views the student as an independent person whose development is threatened by indoctrination. Woodhouse, also appealing to the concept of growth, points out Russell's concern to protect the child's freedom to exercise individual judgment on intellectual and moral questions. Stander discusses Russell's claim that schooling all too often encourages the herd mentality, with its fanaticism and bigotry, failing to develop what Russell calls a "critical habit of mind". (1) The threat of indoctrination, the importance of individual judgment, and the prevalence of fanatical opinions all point up the need for what nowadays is called critical thinking; and Russell's work is valuable to anyone who wants to understand what this kind of thinking entails and why it matters in education. More needs to be said, however, to establish the significance of Russell's conception of critical thinking, which anticipates many of the insights in contemporary discussions and avoids many of the pitfalls which recent writers identify. Some factors, perhaps, obscure a

ready appreciation of Russell's contribution. His comments on critical thinking are scattered throughout numerous writings, never systematized into a comprehensive account; (2) nor did Russell tend to use the now dominant terminology of "critical thinking". This phrase only began to come into fashion in the 1940s and 1950s, and earlier philosophers spoke more naturally of reflective thinking, straight thinking, clear thinking, or scientific thinking, often of thinking simpliciter. There are useful distinctions to be drawn among these, but it is often clear from the context that, despite terminological differences, the issue concerns what is now called critical thinking. Russell uses a wide variety of terms including, occasionally, references to a critical habit of mind, the critical attitude, critical judgment, solvent criticism, critical scrutiny, critical examination, and critical undogmatic receptiveness. The ideal of critical thinking is, for Russell, embedded in the fabric of philosophy, science, rationality, liberalism and education, and his views emerge as he discusses these and other themes. (3) Russell's conception of critical thinking involves reference to a wide range of skills, dispositions and attitudes which together characterize a virtue which has both intellectual and moral aspects, and which serves to prevent the emergence of numerous vices, including dogmatism and prejudice. Believing that one central purpose of education is to prepare students to be able to form "a reasonable judgment on controversial questions in regard to which they are likely to have to act", Russell maintains that in addition to having "access to impartial supplies of knowledge," education needs to offer "training in judicial habits of thought." (4) Beyond access to such knowledge, students need to develop certain skills if the knowledge acquired is not to produce individuals who passively accept the teacher's wisdom or the creed which is dominant in their own society. Sometimes, Russell simply uses the notion of intelligence, by contrast with information alone, to indicate the whole set of critical abilities he has in mind. Such critical skills, grounded in knowledge, include: (i) the ability to form an opinion for oneself, (5) which involves, for example, being able to recognize what is intended to mislead, being capable of listening to eloquence without being carried away, and becoming adept at asking and determining if there is any reason to think that our beliefs are true; (ii) the ability to find an impartial solution, (6) which involves learning to recognize and control our own biases, coming to view our own beliefs with the same detachment with which we view the beliefs of others, judging issues on their merits, trying to ascertain the relevant facts, and the power of weighing arguments; (iii) the ability to identify and question assumptions, (7) which involves learning not to be credulous, applying what Russell calls constructive doubt in order to test unexamined beliefs, and resisting the notion that some authority, a great philosopher perhaps, has captured the whole truth. Russell reminds us that "our most unquestioned convictions may be as mistaken as those of Galileo's opponents." (8) In short, his account of critical skills covers a great deal of the ground set out in detailed, systematic fashion in more recent discussions. (9) There are numerous insights in Russell's account which should have a familiar ring to those acquainted with the recent critical thinking literature. First, Russell's language, especially his emphasis on judgment, suggests the point that critical skills cannot be reduced to a mere formula to be routinely applied. Critical judgment means that one has to weigh evidence

and arguments, approximate truth must be estimated, with the result that skill demands wisdom. Second, critical thinking requires being critical about our own attempts at criticism. Russell observes, for example, that refutations are rarely final; they are usually a prelude to further refinements. (10) He also notes, anticipating a recent objection that critical thinking texts restrict criticism to "approved" topics, that punishment awaits those who wander into unconventional fields of criticism. (11) For Russell, critical thinking must include critical reflection on what passes for critical thinking. Third, critical thinking is not essentially a negative enterprise, witness Russell's emphasis on constructivedoubt, and his warning against practices which lead to children becoming destructively critical.(12) Russell maintains that the kind of criticism aimed at is not that which seeks to reject, but that which considers apparent knowledge on its merits, retaining whatever survives critical scrutiny. There is a pervasive emphasis in Russell's writings, as in much recent commentary, on the reasons and evidence which support, or undermine, a particular belief. Critical scrutiny of these is needed to determine the degree of confidence we should place in our beliefs. He emphasizes the need to teach the skill of marshalling evidence if a critical habit of mind is to be fostered, and suggests that one of the most important, yet neglected, aspects of education is learning how to reach true conclusions on insufficient data. (13) This emphasis on reasons, however, does not lead Russell to presuppose the existence of an infallible faculty of rationality. Complete rationality, he observes, is an unattainable ideal; rationality is a matter of degree. (14) Far from having an uncritical belief in rationality, he was even prepared to say, somewhat facetiously, that philosophy was an unusually ingenious attempt to think fallaciously! The mere possession of critical skills is insufficient to make one a critical thinker. Russell calls attention to various dispositions which mean that the relevant skills are actually exercised. Typically, he uses the notion of habit (sometimes the notion of practice) to suggest the translation of skills into actual behaviour. Russell describes education as the formation, by means of instruction, of certain mental habits [and a certain outlook on life and the world]. (15) He mentions, in particular: (i) the habit of impartial inquiry, (16) which is necessary if one-sided opinions are not to be taken at face value, and if people are to arrive at conclusions which do not depend solely on the time and place of their education; (ii) the habit of weighing evidence, (17) coupled with the practice of not giving full assent to propositions which there is no reason to believe true; (iii) the habit of attempting to see things truly, (18) which contrasts with the practice of merely collecting whatever reinforces existing prejudice; and (iv) the habit of living from one's own centre, (19) which Russell describes as a kind of self-direction, a certain independence in the will. Such habits, of course, have to be exercised intelligently. Russell recognizes clearly, indeed it is a large part of the problem which critical thinking must address, that one becomes a victim of habit if the habitual beliefs of one's own age constitute a prison of prejudice. Hence the need for a criticalhabit of mind. Because they are not simply automatic responses in which one has been drilled, such intellectual habits in effect reflect a person's willingness, what Russell typically calls one's readiness, to act and respond in various ways. His examples include: (i) a readiness to admit new evidence against previous beliefs, (20) which involves an open-minded

acceptance (avoiding credulity) of whatever a critical examination has revealed; (ii) a readiness to discard hypotheses which have proved inadequate, (21) where the test is whether or not one is prepared in fact to abandon beliefs which once seemed promising; and (iii) a readiness to adapt oneself to the facts of the world, (22) which Russell distinguishes from merely going along with whatever happens to be in the ascendant, which might be evil. To be ready to act, or react, in these ways suggests both an awareness that the habits in question are appropriate and a principled commitment to their exercise. They have in common the virtue Russell called truthfulness, which entails the wish to find out, and trying to be right in matters of belief. (23) In Russell's conception, beyond the skills and dispositions outlined above, a certain set ofattitudes characterizes the outlook of a critical person. By the critical attitude, Russell means a temper of mind central to which is a certain stance with respect to knowledge and opinion which involves: (i) a realization of human fallibility, a sense of the uncertainty of many things commonly regarded as indubitable, bringing with it humility; (24) (ii) an openminded outlook with respect to our beliefs, an "inward readiness" to give weight to the other side, where every question is regarded as open and where it is recognized that what passes for knowledge is sure to require correction; (25) (iii) a refusal to think that our own desires and wishes provide a key to understanding the world, recognizing that what we should like has no bearing whatever on what is; (26) (iv) being tentative, (27) without falling into a lazy scepticism (or dogmatic doubt), but holding one's beliefs with the degree of conviction warranted by the evidence. Russell defends an outlook midway between complete scepticism and complete dogmatism in which one has a strong desire to know combined with great caution in believing that one knows. Hence his notion of critical undogmatic receptiveness which rejects certainty (the demand for which Russell calls an intellectual vice (28) ) and ensures that open-mindedness does not become mindless. Russell describes critical undogmatic receptiveness as the true attitude of science, and often speaks of the scientific outlook, the scientific spirit, the scientific temper, a scientific habit of mind and so on, but Russell does not believe that critical thinking is only, or invariably, displayed in science. It is clear that Russell is suggesting a certain ideal to which science can only aspire but which, in his view, science exemplifies to a greater extent than philosophy, at least philosophy as practised in the early twentieth century. Russell uses a number of other phrases to capture the ideal of critical thinking, including the philosophic spirit and a philosophical habit of mind, the liberal outlook (or even the liberal creed), and the rational temper. All of these ideas are closely intertwined. He remarks, for example, that the scientific outlook is the intellectual counterpart of what is, in the practical sphere, the outlook of liberalism. The critical outlook, for Russell, reflects an epistemological and ethical perspective which emphasizes: (i) how beliefs are held i.e. not dogmatically, (ii) the doubtfulness of all beliefs, (iii) the belief that knowledge is difficult but not impossible, (iv) freedom of opinion, (v) truthfulness, and (vi) tolerance. Russell's account of critical thinking is itself a critical one. It is not rendered naive by postmodern doubts about enlightenment notions, doubts which Russell would regard as dogmatic. With respect to both skills and dispositions, for example, Russell does stress impartiality, but he is acutely aware of, and emphasizes, the problems which readily

frustrate the realization of this ideal. No one can view the world with complete impartiality, Russell notes, but a continual approach is possible. He speaks of controlling our biases, but at the same time is quick to observe that "one's bias may be too profound to be conscious." (29) He concedes that even scientific articles (for example, about the effects of alcohol) will generally betray the writer's bias. He notes that it isvery easy to become infected by prejudice and speaks of having to struggle against it. Russell admits that his account of the critical attitude may seem nothing more than a trite truism, but keeping it in mind, and adhering to it, especially as far as our own biases are concerned, is not at all easy. As with his conviction about the attainability of knowledge, and unlike many contemporary sceptics, Russell defends the ideal of impartiality and offers practical advice to anyone who takes this elusive ideal seriously. We can try to hear all sides and discuss our views with people who have different biases, making sure to face real opponents; we can stretch our minds by trying to appreciate alternative pictures of the world presented in philosophy, anthropology and history; we can learn to recognize our own biases by, for example, noting when contrary opinions make us angry. And so on. Russell attaches considerable importance to forming one's own opinions, and this might seem to betray an unwarranted confidence in an individual's ability to avoid dependence on expert knowledge, an issue which recent discussions concerning trust in knowledge have brought to the fore. Russell's concern is that "with modern methods of education and propaganda it has become possible to indoctrinate a whole population with a philosophy which there is no rational ground to suppose true," (30) hence his emphasis on thinking for oneself. He is not, however, blind to the value of expert knowledge. He maintains that expert opinion, when unanimous, must be accepted by non-experts as more likely to be right than the opposite opinion. One of his famous principles is that "when the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be regarded as certain." It cannot be regarded as certain, but it may prove to be correct since the experts, despite their agreement, may be mistaken. Hence we need to maintain our critical guard and an open-minded outlook. Russell observes that an economist should form an independent judgment on currency questions, but an ordinary mortal had better follow authority. There remains some scope, however, for one's own critical judgment even with respect to expert, or supposed expert, pronouncements. Learning not to be taken in by eloquence is part of learning to recognize who speaks with real authority. Russell also believes that non-specialists can learn to distinguish the genuine expert from cocksure prophets and dishonest charlatans, and in the case of doubt a critical person can and should suspend judgment. It is sometimes objected against influential accounts of critical thinking that there is little or no mention of the feelings and relational skills which go beyond opening the mind to include opening one's heart to the world and to other people. This feminist critique does not, I believe, apply to Russell; indeed he anticipates this very criticism of critical thinking: "Schools . . . will turn out pupils whose minds are closed against reason and whose hearts have been taught to be deaf to humane feeling." (31) Elsewhere, speaking of an education designed to undermine dogmatism, Russell says plainly: "What is needed is not merely intellectual. A widening of sympathy is at least as important." (32) Again, far from the hostility and aggressiveness which is sometimes associated with critical thinking, and thought to make it gender biased, Russell advises that "in studying a philosopher, the right

attitude is neither reverence nor contempt, but first a kind of hypothetical sympathy. . . ." (33) Russell here anticipates what is called "the believing game" (by contrast with "the doubting game"), where one tries to discover, as Russell puts it, what it feels like to believe in the ideas in question before one attempts to overturn them. Furthermore, Russell is not open to the objection, also raised against recent accounts of critical thinking, that the paradigm encourages one to lose touch with one's own personal voice, detaching and objectifying that voice in a misguided quest for Truth and Certainty. Russell himself disparages the tendency to use "truth" with a big T in the grand sense. People persecute each other because they believe they know the "Truth". (34) Although Russell thinks that there is a danger in passionate belief (in general he holds that the passionateness of a belief is inversely proportional to the evidence in its favour!), he does not advocate an attitude of complete detachment because he believes that detachment will lead to inaction. (35) The kind of detachment he favours is from those emotions (hatred, envy, anger and so on) which interfere with intellectual honesty and which prevent the emergence of kindly feeling. (36) The person who has no feelings, he says, does nothing and achieves nothing. Here again, Russell anticipates the recent objection that critical thinking may lead to people becoming spectators rather than participants. The philosopher is not a merely sceptical spectator of human activities. (37) We need, Russell says, to learn to live without certainty, yet without being paralyzed by hesitation. He advocates living from one's own centre, but warns against subjective certainty. Many have gone to war with the certainty that they would survive, Russell observes, but death paid no heed to their certainty. Finally, it is worth noting that Russell avoids the "philosopher's fallacy" of exaggerating the role of philosophy and logic in the development of critical thinking to the neglect of subject knowledge. Certainly Russell thinks that philosophy has much to contribute, especially to learning the value of suspended judgment no doubt because philosophy is so full of controversy and uncertainty. Moreover, Russell is not nearly as dismissive of informal logic as some recent critics; clear logical thinking has a definite part to play. (38) It is useful, Russell thinks, to study informal fallacies and to have good names for them, such as the "pigs-might-fly" fallacy. (39) In giving an example of this fallacy from physics, Russell seems to agree with those who hold that such principles of reasoning are subjectneutral and generalizable. Having said this, however, it is important to recall that Russell does not equate critical thinking with logical proficiency. Logic and mathematics are the alphabet of the book of nature, not the book itself. Russell also makes it clear in many places that it is one thing to know, for example, the principle that belief should be proportioned to the evidence, and quite another to know what the actual evidence is. Russell, as we have seen, stresses access to impartial sources of knowledge; without such access, our critical abilities cannot function. He is not, therefore, to be convicted of a simplistic view about the generalizability of critical thinking. (40)